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Choosing Our Words Carefully

by Cyndy Drummey | July 1, 1998

In 1994 I wrote the cover story for NAILS entitled “Are Discount Salons Threatening Our Industry?”  that was one of the first times the term “discount salon” had been used and defined in the nail industry.  We defined a discount salon as one whose service prices were less than 50% of the national average.  In the years since that time, the term has become widely used; however, it no longer has the same meaning.  As Gordon Pun says in his “Just My Opinion” column on page 18, “discount salon” has become a dirty word in our industry and that’s not fair.

I am an editor by trade, so words are my business.  I enjoy the search for the perfect word and know how important (and satisfying) it is to find just the right word.  So I am troubled by what has happened to the term discount salon: It has become a catchall term for unprofessional salons and, in many cases, a euphemism for Vietnamese salons.  I brought this issue up to my editorial team to discuss how we can be more specific in the magazine…without perpetuating stereotypes, but without backing away from certain truths of the way our industry works.  If we are writing an article on salons that are owned by Vietnamese owners, it may be pertinent to use that information in the article (it also may have no relevance to the story).  I don’t want to have to dance around the issue in order to stay politically correct.  There are discount salons in our industry, there are bad, unprofessional salons, and there are Vietnamese-owned salons (and salons owned by every other nationality)…and these terms are NOT synonymous.

Ask yourself why and how you use the term discount salon.  If you are using it to hide prejudice or promote an unfair stereotype, it may be that that is the problem.

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